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Fort Bliss soldier faces immigrant smuggling charge

Aug. 30, 2013 - 05:18PM   |  
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A criminal complaint says Carlos Manuel Vives Feliciano and Gerald Espinoza helped transport groups of Mexican immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally from a border town in New Mexico to other locations.

Court documents say the men participated in different stages of the smuggling operation.

Neither man has been indicted. Federal court documents indicate both men plan to enter a guilty plea.

Feliciano was released after posting a $5,000 bond in mid-July. Espinoza was released on his own reconnaissance.

On June 23, border agents at Truth or Consequences, N.M., stopped Feliciano, while he was driving three undocumented immigrants, according to court documents.

Feliciano allegedly admitted to helping at least five groups of three-to-four immigrants for $2,500 a trip and told border agents he was an active-duty soldier at Fort Bliss, according to the court documents.

He allegedly told border agents he was recruited as a driver through Facebook, according to the Albuquerque Journal. He allegedly told agents the immigrants family members were responsible for paying for their relativesí safe passage.

He would allegedly transport the immigrants from pre-arranged pick-up points in Columbus, N.M., to a house in Albuquerque, a 370-mile drive north. Agents were familiar with the house from previous busts of drivers.

According to court documents, Feliciano identified Espinoza as the man who collected the immigrants at the house, where he fed them before arranging their transportation to their final destination inside the U.S.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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